We’re headed – striking unions willing – to Orvieto tomorrow as a group. There’s a nationwide transit strike, but in Italy strikes are ORGANIZED. No strikes during rush hour. Railroad strikes affect only some regional lines. According to the Trenitalia website we should be o.k. But I’m going to have to walk to and from Termini, it looks like. For Orvieto and my students, it’s worth it!

Forlì – what the Hell?

Forli – what the Hell?

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

All the statues (50-odd) are hypermasculinized males. Most are nude (but check out Ice Hockey further downstream for an exception). Most do something either connected with a modern sport or a classical sport. Forlì, Mussolini’s home province, is neither nude nor doing something athletic. Forlì wears shorts and WHAT THE HELL IS HE CARRYING IN HIS RIGHT HAND?

Click on the picture to go to the photostream of weird fascist nudes – and learn in passing that manscaping is not a 21st century concept. The Stadio dei Marmi is as good an example as you’re going to find of the idea that early-20th-Century-Totalitarian-Movements fetishized the hypermasculine. Please note that I am too lazy to provide links and too lazy to sort out the superficial differences between the visual culture of National Socialism, Socialist Realism, Fascism, and the WPA . . . they all run together for me. But then, I’m a medievalist. This exaltation of the male physical body to the exclusion of the female body and the spirit makes me suspicious.

Enrico del Debbio, one of Mussolini’s favorite architects, built the Stadio dei Marmi as part of the complex for celebrating the Deccenale, or 10 Year Anniversary of the Fascist Era (1932, dated from October 22, 1922, the March on Rome). The complex is still used today by the Italian Olympic Committee and other athletic organizations. One of the great wonders of the Italian Republic is that it never purged Mussolini as thoroughly as Germany removed Hitler from public visibility.

For a modern political reuse of the Fascist monument, see this political poster from 2008. They’re still arguing about the degree to which they ought to preserve, conserve, and restore this site, given its political past.

The whole HWS group came up here today to launch our unit on Fascist Architecture and City Planning, though my photos are from 2 separate visits. Click to see the sunny blue Hercules, too.

Before and After — 21st Century Interventions in Rome

Before and After

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

On the left you see what Rome looked like to me before the Jubilee of 2000 – dingy, ochre, and a little run-down. The right half shows what Rome is starting to look like – much snappier! On the Corse Vittorio Emmanuele II some of the buildings are even blue, now!

I took a long walk yesterday through Prati (Prati di Castello), the post-unification neighborhood to the north of Castel Sant’Angelo, which eventually turned into the Quartiere della Vittoria (I think when I crossed into P Mazzini). I saw some great stuff — but Piazza Mazzini was one of the highlights. Italo Insolera (Roma moderna, around p 99) identifies this piazza and its quarter as one of the best laid-out in post-1870 Rome, especially as concerns its traffic circulation (something Romans could certainly have thought more about before they built!).

How do you spell the name of Obama’s Enemy?

Arabic transliteration — sheesh! This is the most useful thing I’ve read on the subject, from Britannica.

…in reading those stories and many others since the uprising began in Libya readers might be befuddled by the various spellings of Qaddafi’s name. At Britannica, we spell with a “Q,” as do the New York Times and Bloomberg, while al-Jazeera, BBC, the Guardian, the Toronto Star, and the Sydney Morning Herald (among others) uses a “G,” and the New York Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle, and Boston Globe use a “K.” Even accounting for different first letters, news outlets spell the rest of the name differently.

And if you’re interested, follow up with this old post of mine, So what do we mean when we say we teach Arabic? Or maybe this even older post, What is “Arabic” and how do you go about teaching it?
By the way, the correct answer to the question in the title is “However you please.” There is no single answer, so all honest attempts are probably o.k. The same goes for pre-Attaturk Turkish, so far as I read.

Orvieto for a day

Orvieto Cathedral

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

I combined a pedagogical need with a desire to get out of Rome for a day and took a train to Orvieto for the afternoon. You see, spring is here, but it’s still hard to find in the Centro. So I wanted some blooming trees! We’re taking the class to Orvieto in April and I needed to preview. I’m neurotic that way – I don’t like taking groups somewhere I haven’t been.

So – a little less than a 90 minute train ride, funicular to the top of the rock (JUST like the Incline in Chattanooga, only not so long), wandering around a city built of local stone, visiting a GREAT cathedral (along with about a thousand Italian high school students on field trips), seeing the Luca Signorelli Apocalypse frescoes, finding a good restaurant, wandering some more, and then the train home.

The Signorelli frescoes were tremendous and I was almost alone with them. Unfortunately, that “almost” was a guard, so I had to obey the sign that said “no photo.” Alas. Here’s a page with good photographs, but it’s commercial and may not last. And Orvieto is in Umbria, anyway. Typical Tuscan, trying to claim all the art for Tuscany. The official website is hard to navigate. Wikipedia’s photos are not adequate.

Still, I could see all I wanted. The chapel of the corporal was a different problem. I could barely edge my way into the chapel, which was built to house the miraculous corporal of Bolsena, That’s where all the Italian students were going, sitting down in the pews, and getting lectured to. It was not, shall we say, a devotional atmosphere.

Ah, language . . .

I had a frustrating day in Italian class. For some reason I wasn’t tracking well; not that I didn’t understand the grammar (it was essentially a mechanical structure of conditions-contrary-to-fact — when dependent clauses use the present, imperfect, or pluperfect infinitive), but somehow things weren’t clicking.
And then tonight some silly French pop song comes on iTunes and I felt like I understand it all. At least I would be able to make a 90 on a dictée and be able to work out the rest. Les Rita Mitsokou. Songs of my ill-spent grad-school years.
The difference? I started learning to speak French at 19 and to speak Italian at 40.
Reading isn’t much of a problem, other than guessing wrong at cognates or what look like cognates, but speaking? Argh.

One thing or another!

The weather can’t settle down.
Despite the predictions of a partly cloudy day with a high around 60, all the clouds rolled in after 1 p.m. — blue sky all morning, cloudy all afternoon. I want my money back!